the spread of adjective-licensed "of"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Mon Jan 21 16:03:06 UTC 2008

At 1/21/2008 10:56 AM, Dennis Preston wrote:
>This is very interesting (if it is not just a slip). Anybody out
>there got any other evidence for "stranded determiners"?

Eek!  Do you think she intended to, and did, say (to sort-of diagram
it) "How (big-of-a) is it?"  Someone should see if there is an audio


>>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
>>Subject:      Re: the spread of adjective-licensed "of"
>>I think I just heard -- but my ears are not the best -- a newscaster
>>on NECN (New England Cable News) say "How big of a is it?"  She had
>>just been speaking of the recent tiff between Clinton and Obama over
>>statements about race.
>>I wonder if she caught herself about to say "How big of a dispute is
>>it?", and tried to change to "How big is it?"
>>At 1/20/2008 10:34 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>>>FWIW, I rarely - if ever - hear the traditional version (without
>>>"of") anymore, either in the media or in real life.  And I'm quite
>>>certain this is not a matter of "selective attentiveness."
>>>    All of my well-educated non-academic friends use it habitually -
>>>  and they're about my age.
>>>    I first noticed it on freshman papers many years ago - how many,
>>>  I can't say, but it was certainly common, around here, by 1990. In
>>>  fact, I'm inclined to say it was the *norm* for freshmen by that
>>>  time. If someone came up with a date of ten or fifteen years
>>>  earlier I wouldn't be at all surprised.
>>>    JL
>>>Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU> wrote:
>>>    ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>>  -----------------------
>>>Sender: American Dialect Society
>>>Poster: Laurence Horn
>>>Subject: the spread of adjective-licensed "of"
>>>I'm sure Arnold has a better label for this construction, which we've
>>>discussed here in the past. What struck me today was the proximity
>>>of two occurrences, one in print that suggests the occurrence of the
>>>"adjective-of-a" construction (what some might consider epenthetic
>>>"of") that has moved beyond the colloquial into at least semi-formal
>>>style, as seen in this headline in an Allstate ad on the back cover
>>>of today's NYT Week in Review:
>>>How long of a retirement should you plan for?
>>>Somehow I wouldn't bat my eye at a sportscaster wondering on the air,
>>>"How long of a run was that?", but the occurrence in a newspaper ad
>>>seems a bit odder.
>>>The other intrusive prep. occurs in spoken and indeed sportscasterese
>>>register (from the broadcast of today's AFC championship game on
>>>CBS), but what's interesting is the construction itself, which seems
>>>pretty foreign to me, although obviously interpretable:
>>>The guy who's really putting this team over the top of recent is Maroney.
>>>Hard to search "of recent" on google for obvious reasons, but I'm
>>>guessing it could be a nonce blend of "recently" + "of late".
>>>The American Dialect Society -
>>>Be a better friend, newshound, and know-it-all with Yahoo!
>>>Mobile.  Try it now.
>>>The American Dialect Society -
>>The American Dialect Society -
>Dennis R. Preston
>University Distinguished Professor
>Department of English
>Morrill Hall 15-C
>Michigan State University
>East Lansing, MI 48864 USA
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list